THE EASIEST WAYS TO TEACH 'IDENTIFYING THEMES' IN FORM THREE

Welcome to Unit 7:3 

Review: Previously in Unit 7:2, we discussed about how to enable students to make good and communicative telephone calls by using appropriate patterns in English.

In this Unit 7:3, we will learn how to teach the sub topic, Identifying themes’ in Form Three. In this sub topic, we will practically focus on how to guide students to identify and analyse main theme and sub themes in particular literary works.


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THE FOLLOWING IS THE COMPREHENSIVE TEACHING GUIDE ON THE SUB TOPIC:

A: INFORMATION OF THE TOPIC:
1. Topic: READING LITERARY WORKS
2. Sub Topic: Identifying themes.
3. Periods per sub topic: 08
4: Class: Form Three.
B: HOW TO TEACH THE TOPIC:

GENERAL INTRODUCTION
The aim of this sub topic is to help students be able to identify theme in a given literary work. This sub topic comes after students have been familiarised with the ways of analysing literary works discussed in the previous topic. It is expected that students must have read the whole literary text in previous sub topic, then at these point they are guided to analyse the themes of the selected literary work.
ACTIVITIES AND GAMES TO FACILITATE A LESSON
ACTIVITY 1: BRAINSTORMING, THE MEANING OF THEME..
By definition, a theme is a central or dominant idea in a literary work. It is the basic or general idea expressed in the story, or the major topic discussed in the story. Themes are usually not stated directly by the author in the literary work but rather they are inferred by the readers. A single story or book may have many themes/ideas and some themes may even conflict each other. The following are some common themes in African literature:
  • African traditions.
  • Corruption.
  • Betrayal.
  • Hypocrisy.
  • Tribalism.
The concept of Main theme and sub themes of a literary work
A literary work may have a main theme and other sub themes. Taking an example from ‘Unanswered Cries’, the main theme of the novel is “Female Genital Mutilation” or “The evils of female circumcision”. The main theme of the literary work may be expressed in a single statement or two. From the same literary text, the sub themes may be many such as; Poverty, tribalism, superstitions, African culture, marriage, and the like and are directly linked to the main theme of the literary work in question. Check out this illustration.
ACTIVITY 2: TECHNIQUES OF IDENTIFYING THEMES IN A SELECTED TEXT.
There are things or techniques that help in identifying the themes of the particular literary text. To understand the general overview of the text and identify the themes, the students should take the following into consideration:
  1.   The blurb of the book. It is the back cover of the text where summary of the book and author’s information can be found.
  2.   The setting of the book. This helps to know where the story is set.
  3.   The actions and ideas of the characters.
  4.   What is conveyed throughout the work of art.
  5.   Making inferences. These are the techniques that help student to identify the themes which are not directly stated by the author.
In making inferences, a student infer to the themes of the book by using his/her own life experiences, by thinking about the clues or appearances of the character, by thinking about how characters handles conflicts, etc. For example, when the reader sees a character with dirty and torn clothes, he/she infers that the particular character is poor because he/she has used the evidences or the clues he has seen to the character. For more on MAKING INFERENCES, Click MAKING INFERENCE SKILLS

Apart from making inference skills, students are guided to use the correct patterns in identifying the story’s main ideas by using the following patterns and guiding questions:
  • The story is set in………
  • The main theme of the story is………..
  • The writer uses………
  • The writer applies ……..point of view.
  • The writer uses …………. narrative style.
  • The writer portrays……….
  • The writer uses ……………language, etc.
All these patterns are helpful in making students more conversant with the many ideas of the selected work of art.
ACTIVITY 3: DISCUSSION OF CULTURAL ELEMENTS OF A TEXT AND PRESENTATION OF THE THEMES
Discussing Cultural Elements of a Text.
It is expected that one literary text will be read and analysed for the Form Three students. Thus, having read a literary work, the teacher can guide the students to identify distinctive cultural elements or African traditions as well as other themes depicted in the work. For instance, from the novel ‘Unanswered Cries’, the students in groups, can discuss the cultural elements such as;
  • Female circumcision, as when girls of Temne tribe are circumcised.
  • African superstitions, as when most Bondo society is superstitious.
  • Beliefs in gods, as when women confesses to the gods when they get birth complications.
  • Witchcraft and sorcery, as when Yah Posseh performs acts of witchcraft and sorcery, etc.
The importance of discussing these cultural elements is to connect students’ cultural elements with the cultural elements learnt in the literary text.
Discussion of the Themes in Groups.
In groups, the students are guided to discuss the main themes found in the literary work studied. Here the teacher can use various methods to make students interact well with the themes found in a text. In this time around, we will try to discuss the themes using the Tree Method.
In this method, a circle is drawn on the paper. Then each group allows one student to lead a discussion. The leader of the discussion should use arrows to list the themes other students will be mentioning during the discussion. Below is an example of this method when some themes are taken from ‘Unanswered Cries’ as follows:

Presentation stage: After thorough discussion, the students in their groups present their work for class discussion during which the teacher guides students to reach a consensus. A teacher should allow each group to present their works in this method on the blackboard. Through this way, the students will be interacted with many themes found in the text. At the end of the presentations, a teacher always sums up the main ideas of the selected literary text by emphasizing the important points of the literary work.
ACTIVITY 4: DISCUSSING THE RELEVANCE OF THE LITERARY WORK.
In this last activity of the sub topic, students are guided to relate what they have learnt with the real experiences in their societies. They relate the literary work to real life experiences. In doing so, they discuss whether the work of art studied is relevant or irrelevant to the contemporary societies like theirs.
Discussion stage. It is also advised to arrange students in groups because this is the time they are going to discuss about their own home or societal lives. For example, they can discuss if they have heard about the practices of female circumcision, if they have seen or experienced the situations. Some of them might have heard about the practices on newspapers or on TVs and so on. All in all, they should discuss these things together with other things in their groups.
Presentation stage. Students in their groups, are now required to present their answers for class discussion. Each group should be given at least four to five statements that explain about the relevance of the work of art studied.

6: CONNECTION: Beyond the Sub Topic. This sub topic is the topic that helps students to improve other learning skills like inference skills, critical thinking skills, and summarisation skills.

7: NOTE: It is important for the students to understand how themes are identified in the literary work. They should understand that main themes or minor themes are not directly stated by the writer, but rather they are to be inferred by the readers so that to get them.
The inference making skills are to be emphasised to the students. They help them to make inferences not only on literature but also on other subjects and texts that require them to do so.

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Check out how to Study & Teach other Form Three Sub Topics in this Blog!

Related Topics:
Also check out:
Form I Sub topics, at FORM I SYLLABUS TOPICS REVIEW
Form II Sub topics, at FORM II SYLLABUS TOPICS REVIEW
Form IV Sub topics, at FORM IV SYLLABUS TOPICS REVIEW  

For more on Literature Topics, check out Literature in English Blog
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For Form IV NECTA Examination Sections, check out ELABORATED CSEE NECTA EXAMINATION SECTIONS


Reference
Conteh, Osman (2002) Unanswered Cries, Macmillan Publishers Limited.


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